As far as we know, the first European to be served with a hot chocolate drink was the Spanish explorer, Hernando Cortez (1485 – 1547). When he first tasted this spicy drink, he was in the court of the Aztec emperor, Montezuma II. This drink was a far cry from the ubiquitous hot drinking chocolate we have today. It was made with ground cacao beans, chilli peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and black pepper. As there was no sugar cane at that time in Central America, it may have been sweetened, (if it was), with honey. Sugar cane was not introduced into the South American continent until the mid-16th century.
Montezuma is reputed to have had a prodigious sexual appetite, and it is thought that the Aztecs believed that this could be attributed to the cacao bean and the drink. It is said that the emperor drank many goblets of hot chocolate, thus fuelling the belief that it was an aphrodisiac. The evidence for the link between chocolate and enhanced sexual performance is therefore purely anecdotal.
So, that’s where the belief that chocolate is an aphrodisiac has its origins. But is there any scientific proof for this claim?
Scientists say that there are two substances in chocolate and the cacao bean which may increase sexual desire; one is tryptophan, a precursor to the feel-good chemical serotonin. The second substance is phenylethylamine, which is a stimulant akin to amphetamine. The latter substance, phenylethylamine is released into the brain when people fall in love.
These substances are present in chocolate of all kinds in small doses, so it is very unlikely that chocolate actually has any aphrodisiac qualities. Dark chocolate has marginally more of them that milk and white chocolate, apparently. Scientists have investigated the claims, but have found no evidence to substantiate them.
That being said, though, most people wouldn’t deny that eating chocolate, and letting it melt in your mouth, is a very pleasurable sensation. When we feel good, and are cosy and comfortable, we are probably open to the possibilities of arousal. If you are not comfortable and warm, you probably aren’t in the mood for any kind of dalliance. Think about all the films you have seen when a couple lie in front of a log fire on a sheepskin rug and end up in each other’s embrace.
Chocolate is not an aphrodisiac according scientists, but as it makes us feel good and relaxed, there is some circumstantial evidence to suggest, however erroneously, that chocolate is an aphrodisiac.